The primary setting of Austin Clarke's "Don't Shoot, Don't Shoot!" is inner-city Toronto, and this setting provides a backdrop for the violence and fear that stand at the center of the story.
Actually, when the story opens, the protagonist, a middle-aged woman with a teenage son, seems to be at the beach. She feels the water and sand, but it is all a daydream. She is really on a subway train in Toronto, listening to the conversation of several teenage boys. The two settings provide a stark contrast between the woman's ideal life of peace and the life of fear and violence she actually leads. As she listens to the boys, she wants to speak to them and teach them and correct them, but she doesn't dare. This is the inner city. It is dangerous. Then the woman hears them talking about her own son and how they are coming to get him.
The scene then shifts to the woman's own home in a rundown neighborhood in the city. It is night, and gunfire explodes around the apartment buildings. This is nothing new. Such shooting happens all the time at night. The large, once-grand houses in the neighborhood are now apartments surrounded by "bums and thieves." Her own apartment was broken into four times in the past year. There is garbage everywhere and fear. The woman is angry when she thinks about where she lives and all the violence that accompanies her life in this area. She has to crawl under the bed for safety, for she hears someone running outside her basement apartment.
The woman finally drifts off to sleep to dream about the sea again, but she cannot escape the violence and corruption of her neighborhood, and this is the whole point of this piece. The author uses the setting to show readers a life that many of them can hardly fathom.